Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's blooming at my house

I took a break from life's duties to stop and smell the flowers.  We've worked so hard on this place over the years.  It makes me almost regret moving.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Finding balance

Ok,  I'm having trouble balancing work, motherhood, homemaking and homesteading all at the same time. I'm feeling torn in many directions this week.  
Today was no exception.  I spent a full day at work and ended up spending an hour this afternoon with a patient who was sobbing and wondering why she should go on in life- trying to find meaning in all the hardships she has been through recently.  I really felt bad that I had to cut her short because I really HAD to leave because I only had 30 minutes to get home (25 minute walk), get the car and drive to the high school to pick up I11 after band.  I walked home, picked him up, got K9 from the after school program and dropped them off at home.  I then quickly changed clothes and drove out to the acreage.  Since it didn't rain again today I managed to get about 2/3 of the garden tilled for a second time.  I would have finished but I ran out of gas- and of course, we weren't organized enough to have brought out the gas can.  So I put away the tiller, kissed V- who was finishing up fixing the porch roof (lots of the cedar shakes had fallen off), stopped at the grocery store on my way home for milk and frozen french fries, called J14 to turn on the oven, came home, made dinner (we ate by 7! getting better), got kids through homework and sat down at the computer.  I still need to do the dinner dishes and maybe start to box up some things from the upstairs game shelf.
Any suggestions on how to make things run more smoothly?  I know that this is a temporary crazy period in my life but any suggestions are welcomed on how I can continue to preserve my sanity.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

It didn't rain today!

More bleeding hearts discovered- white ones this time!
V again spent the afternoon out at the homestead.  He had an editing job to do this morning (he'll finish it tomorrow morning)  and had to meet the guy from the heating/air conditioning people in the afternoon.  They got the air conditioner unit moved so we can begin the work on the well.  Next, we need to somehow remove the 6 inch thick concrete slab that sits over the well pit (the air conditioner was sitting on this) so the well guys can extend the well head and shock the well so we can drink the water.  After the well, comes the septic system.  Things are moving, although seemingly slowly on this front.
V spent much of his afternoon demolishing the basement.  There are only a few walls left.  The ceiling tiles in the bathroom were quite nasty, as were many things.
An open expanse- the west third of the basement.
You can see in the distance one of the many sinks.  There is another, identical sink about 6 feet to the right of that one and the plumbing for another one in another part of the basement (they took the utility sink with them- of course- grrr).  One sink down here will remain- an extra sink isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially in what will likely be a craft/work area. The other will be moved up into the upstairs bathroom- which is HIDEOUS!!! I'll have to post a picture of the upstairs bath sometime. It is entirely paneled in dark wood (walls, floor, ceiling) with only one small (North) window that looks out on the side of the garage- it is dark and claustrophobic.
Off to the right is the gutted darkroom, ground zero of mouseland.
Some of the framing will remain for these walls. In fact, the wall you see here will be one of the walls for J14's room, in the corner (ahead, right) will be my sewing/guest bedroom.
It didn't rain today.  I checked the garden.  It is wet but not WET so I'm hoping that if it holds off raining tomorrow as well, maybe I can till one more time tomorrow late afternoon or evening.  But, we're forecast for more rain tomorrow night, Thursday and Friday.  We already had 2+ inches- enough already!  I want to garden!!!
But one nice thing...after a few small repairs and actually connecting the downspouts to take the water away from the house (what a concept!)- even with 2 inches of rain Sunday night- we didn't have water in the basement Monday morning!  YEAH!!!
I'm feeling a bit more in control than I did over the weekend. We're getting the new schedule down pretty quickly. And coming home to the 'town house' helps with meals and homework for the kids.
Oh, and my fingerling potatoes arrived today.  Certified organic seed potatoes!  Woo-Hoo!  Now if I just had somewhere to put them....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Independence Days- weeks 20 and 21 and a garden update

Whoosh,  I'm tired!  And I didn't even go out to the acreage today, staying home after work and getting caught up on dishes and laundry.  V was out there this afternoon working on gutting more of the basement.  It seems that everywhere he tears something down he finds mouse poo.  He reports that the ceiling panels are bad enough that he doesn't even want to try to reuse the electrical wires because they are all covered with it.  I can't imagine how these people lived there, let alone run a vet hospital.  Of course, it seems that all they did was put bandaids on the problem rather than do the work to eliminate it.  Since they had a mouse problem, they built a mouse-proof storage room to keep the animal food- rather than seal up the hole in the mudsill where you could see daylight through, or the holes in eaves, or the holes around the well room.  AAARGH!!!!
But, progress is being made and soon we will be able to thoroughly seal the place and hopefully get things under control.  I do think that almost all of the mice have moved out since it warmed up and there has been no food source for so long.  We have caught only one mouse in the traps we have set.  We have also been very careful to not leave any food out or scraps in the garbage that may attract them.  I realize that living out in the country we will probably never totally be mouse free but what has been here is amazingly horrific!  One line from the previous owners that we have been joking with:  When we commented about the amount of mouse poop (before we knew how bad it really was), they said "Obviously, you don't know about living in the country".  Obviously!  I grew up in the country- I just don't know about living the way they did.  Ick!!! and to imagine that they had a baby living in that mess...I don't want my dog living in that!
But now, down to business.  I've been lax about updates on challenges lately, so here goes:
Independence Days Challenge, several weeks lumped together:
1. Plant something- I did manage to get the strawberries in the ground last week but the garden area still needs work before it's ready to plant anything. I received notice that my fingerling potatoes have finally shipped and should be here tomorrow or Wednesday and I really need to get my broccoli seedlings and more peas in the ground.  I just hope it doesn't keep raining.  We had about 2 inches of rain and more is forecast for later in the week.  I'm still waiting for my blueberries and other plants to arrive and I really need to transplant my golden and black raspberries before they get too much bigger.
2.  Harvest something- Other than a few chives for on potatoes last week, nope.
3. Preserve something- Only my sanity, and that is questionable.
4. Store something- Nope.
5. Manage reserves- we've eaten mainly out of stores last week- mostly because I didn't make time to go to the grocery store...except for Sunday night dinner which I feel awful about...I fed my family frozen pizza!  Ack! how could I have fallen so low.
6.  Cook something new- only frozen pizza.  I think I've only ever bought them once or twice before in my entire life.  Of course, at 830 pm, we only cared that it was food.  At least I didn't go through the drive through and pick up fast food.
7. Prep something- We pulled off the ultimate prep and have our land.  Now, just to make it livable.
8.  Reduce waste- NOPE, other than the usual.  In fact, we have been generating an enormous amount of waste in fixing the house.  We had hoped to be able to salvage as much as we could but with the amount of mouse waste on things, we're opting to just pitch it.
9.  Learn a new skill- OK. I'm learning construction techniques and learned how to hang gutters on a house.  I also learned how to use V's new compound miter saw-  OOO, power tools!
10.  Work on community food security- other than prepping my garden space and talking with Roger, not really.
11.  Regenerate what is lost- Ummm.  Talked to my parents about helping rehab the house, worked out with my brother to borrow his saws-all, air compressor and nail gun.
12.  Behavior change.  Definitely no procrastinating around here.  Although, I do need to work on being more organized.  I did pretty good during the week last week, taking things with us that we needed, figuring out how to feed everyone but that all fell apart over the weekend.  I haven't even made out the menu for the coming week.  Heck, I don't even know what we're having tomorrow.  I'd better think about that.

Now, for a brief garden update, since I'm  doing the seed to seed challenge.  Most of my garden stuff is mentioned above.  Since it rained, Roger said I can keep the tiller for now,  I think my garden spot will dry pretty quickly- it's on the top of a hill and the soil is pretty light, in fact, some places, there is so much organic material (and horse poop) that it's almost like digging in compost, I do really want to till it deeper to stir up some of the 'real' soil underneath to even it out.  We're supposed to have sunny skies tomorrow and hopefully Wednesday.  I'll have to check it out Wednesday afternoon to see if it's dry enough to till.  I would like to be able to give Roger back his tiller this weekend.  That and I will have my fingerling potatoes to plant soon.
I'm feeling so behind on this garden stuff.  While I'm thrilled that we have the property in time to plant this year, the time crunch is killing me.  We still have to get our current house in shape to sell.  ACK.  Maybe I'll just give up on sleep for the next few months...Nah, I like it too much.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

House- Day 7: Exhausted!!

We have Bleeding Hearts!!!
That was the high point of my day.  We put in 11 hours straight today.  Whoosh!!! We're all tired.  Mostly V and I.  The kids took lots of 'breaks' but did manage to get a few things done.
I11 works on painting his room
We did manage to get both coats of paint on his room so tomorrow we can pull the painter's tape and it will be done!  Now we can start using both boys' rooms for stacking boxes.
V says that I "work willingly with my hands".  Wow, I didn't know I was virtuous.

But, the fascia and soffits are done!!!!  Behold:
Yeah, I know, gutters aren't that exciting to most people.
Now, it's very late and we have yet to eat.  (pizza is in the oven)  Tomorrow I go back to work.
Sigh....  I do wish I had more time to work on the house.  I don't think we will have everything done by the time we had hoped to move in.  But we'll see how far we get.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

House- Day 6: A quiet day

Sorry, no pictures today.  We got a very late start today due to J14 and V having Tae Kwon Do and Kum Do classes this morning. They don't get home until about 1130 and then J had to be at school at 1 to set up for this evening's student film festival.  She is actually one of the people organizing it and was one of the judges.  While they were out the boys and I went on the search for boots for them to wear while playing in the creek.  I was amazed at how hard it was to find plain, children's rain boots. We ended up finally at the local farm/feed store where they had some.
Anyway, after lunch we packed up and headed out to the acreage.  It was rainy and low 50s today and with the late start, it was too wet and too late to start working on ladders at the roof line so, we will have to finish that tomorrow.  But I did get the lumber painted for the other section we need to repair so that should move much more quickly since we know the drill now.  We desperately need to finish the job so we can out the gutters back up since we are forecast to have rain almost every day next week.  So tomorrow, rain or shine, we will be up on the ladders ripping out bad lumber.  (We're going to be bad and not go to church tomorrow, although J14 needs to be there from 12-2 for a meeting about their trip to New Orleans) At least we started with the worst part so that is done.  There aren't any spots in the next section where birds have been nesting so it should be much less messy.  The wood is soft and rotting but not in as bad shape as the original portion we did.
J14 and I did manage to get the second coat of paint on K9's room so except for removing the painter's tape and putting switch/outlet covers and vents back in place, it is done.  Hopefully tomorrow J14 and I11 will be able to get at least one coat of paint on his room.  I don't really trust the boys to paint so J14 will likely be doing most of it.  
I hate to think of returning to work next week.  I feel that there is so much we weren't able to accomplish this week.  I got a notice that my second order of potatoes have shipped (rather later than I had hoped- but I guess that's OK, since I now have a place to put them- the others are at Roger's).  I didn't get a chance to do my second tilling yet, either.  Of course, it's supposed to rain most of next week so Roger won't be able to till either, but he does want his tiller back soon.
I had to leave early with the children this evening since J14 needed to be back at school at 6 for the film fest which started at 7 but V managed to precut the lumber to length for the fascia and deconstruct one wall of the darkroom.
For those who have been asking, as far as we can tell, almost every wall in the basement has had mice in it, some more than others.  Worst of all, the ceiling panels need to go since they have mouse poo on top.  We are essentially going to be gutting the entire basement and starting from scratch.  We are salvaging as much of the framing as possible and are going to repurpose the lights and outlets.  That way, we can be sure that there are no residual pockets of mousey surprises, and we plan to seal the mudsill and insulate as we go.  Currently there is no insulation against the foundation and it is COLD down there.
V had a call from his brother (bigK) in Texas who is planning to fly up for a weekend to help out when we start framing and drywalling in the basement.  Initially, he thought that bigK was joking but it turns out that he is serious about coming to help.  My parents, also, are planning to come help and Mom says we are to find jobs for them to do.  The problem is, my parents are both in their 80s and aren't as spry as they used to be.  Much of what we are doing now is rather physically intensive so I've got to think of what I can have them do that won't be demeaning to them but will be something that they can actually do.  I thought about having my Mom replace the damaged screens (we have the supplies) but V thinks that would be insulting to have her come all this way to do that.  My Dad is supposed to help supervise when V runs the new gas line for my stove.  Any suggestions for what we can have them do?  My Dad has cardiac issues and had bypass surgery a few years ago and my Mom has had both knees replaced.  They're not spring chickens but they mean well.

Friday, April 24, 2009

House- Day 5: YUCK

We came home to our 'town house' for dinner tonight.  We're grilling some of our grassfed t-bone steaks and having a bottle of wine.   V and I have been working all day and didn't even bother to bring the kids out to the acreage.  We had J14 pick up the boys from their after school program on her way home.
I came downstairs after my shower wearing a sundress.  The conversation that ensued was something like this:
V:  You're dressed up, what's the occasion?
Me:  I'm clean.
V: Yes, you are, but what's the occasion?
Me:  Because I'm clean!!!
You can tell by this that I had been in desperate need of a shower when we got home.  Today was the day of 'dirty work'.  V actually had it much worse than I.  He tackled dismantling the dark room which is ground zero of rodent infestation.  The darkroom was essentially a closet that was lined with black plastic.  The mice had gotten up on top of the plastic in the ceiling.  There was enough mouse doo up there that it was running down the back of the plastic and pooling on the floor.  V got kitted up to do battle:
Yes, that's a surgical scrub gown
For the guy who can handle anything, even he said he had a hard time not vomiting while he ripped down the plastic.
Then we both got down to dirty work removing the rotted fascia and soffit from part of the roof, installing venting and reconstructing.
There were several sections where birds have been getting in.  The space in the center has already been partially cleared but the nesting material went back probably 3 or more feet.  It all got pulled out with a hoe.  Sorry Mama Robin, those eggs won't hatch.  It was filthy work and we both had to wear masks while ripping down rotten boards and clearing nests.  But behold:
Nearly finished!! 
It just needs the trim molding put back on but we're going to try to finish that tomorrow.  We're forecast for possible thunderstorms tomorrow.  I hope they miss us, we have too much to do.  I go back to work on Monday and that will leave V doing most of the work himself.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Miscellaneous photos from the week

The dog checks out the new house.
The seedlings arrive at their new home.
Isn't that beautiful soil!
Deer damage
Yes, it's a pile of horse manure.  Left behind by the previous owners, now well rotted.
Moving hosta plants that were near the well.  They would have been destroyed when it is serviced/repaired

House- Day 4: Late start

We got a late start today but still managed to get quite a bit accomplished.  We both slept like logs last night but had things to do this morning before we headed out to the house.  I needed to run to the grocery store and V had to write a post for the blog he works for.  We did spend time this morning out there measuring and marking.  We figured out where the kitchen island would go and marked the ceiling for the range hood and lighting.  The lights are downspot task lights that we are going to salvage out of the basement (there are 19 down spotlights in the basement!)
Speaking of salvaging:  K9 got his own wall to demolish (well, at least to knock chunks out of the drywall)
Look how he handles that hammer!
It's a good thing I called this morning and arranged for the delivery of this:
Our very own construction dumpster!
We discovered that the wall that K was demolishing had been infested by mice they had burrowed through the insulation behind the drywall.  Below is a picture of what they left behind.  
We didn't let K take down anything past the drywall after we discovered mice.
You can see where they tunneled down the wall into a chamber in the insulation.  A lot of what is on the wall is mildew that was behind the plastic, not just mouse s*!%
We also discovered, much to our dismay, that the idiot owner before us used treated lumber to frame some of the walls!!! What was he thinking!!!
Please disregard the stylish work boots with capris...
But, I did manage to get the garden tilled. at least the first time.  I only tilled the first few inches, since there was so much organic material.  I'm going to need to rake some of it off (again) and re-till deeper.
Here it is in it's glory!!
I didn't finish until nearly dark but the first part is done.  26 by 85 feet.  I wanted to go longer but there is too much erosion at one end that the previous owners tried to solve by dumping rocks in the area and they got knocked all over. That end is also partially shaded by a small grove of maples but I may plant my black raspberries there.  They seem to thrive in the semi-shade where we have them now

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

House- Day 3: Working outside

Another busy day has gone by.  We started off with a trip to the home improvement store for materials to vent the roof.  There is almost no ventilation which we think is helping to contribute to the moisture problems we see in the house.  Putting in ridge and soffit vents is something we have done in other homes so it isn't new to us.  I started working in the garden space raking off some of the plant debris.  I'm all for tilling some in but there is a bit much for that.  I really need to get tilling soon,  Roger stopped in to visit today and asked when I would be done with his tiller.  I've only got it till the weekend so I need to get moving on that.  But, I got sidetracked after lunch.  We were up on the ladders, taking down the gutters so we can see how much damage there is to the fascia and soffits.  
This is the inside corner on the northwest side of the house and is definitely the worst part.  We will end up replacing almost all of the fascia boards here (about 40 linear feet) and ventilating the soffits as we go.  We have until Saturday to get it done since it may rain over the weekend again and we need downspouts. 
When the children got home, we did our version of an Earth Day celebration (not that we wouldn't have done it anyway- we try to live it everyday).  We have been talking that all that expanse by the creek needs a weeping willow tree.  We found a 5 foot sapling willow for $15 (we got the last one they had left!) and planted it down in the lowland.  

Not only does the land cry out for a willow but we're hoping that since they drink lots of water, as the tree gets older it will help dry out that area a little faster.  And yes, I know it will take many years to be the majestic tree I have in my mind
J14 has found what she has claimed as 'her tree'.  Obviously she is exhausted from the work of walking the dog while we planted.   I'm not sure what kind of tree it is.  I'm going to have fun with my tree identification book (yes, I'm the kind of nerd that has tree, wildflower and bird books) when things start leafing out.  We've got, I think, a red osier dogwood in the yard, something that is going to burst out blooming (don't know what), possibly wild cherries and crab apples.  Not really sure of anything but the lilac, peonies and hostas at this point though. What an adventure!!!  Tomorrow I REALLY need to remember sunscreen! 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

House- Day 2: Homesteading

We survived day 2.  It was cold and WINDY this morning.  So I spent some time waiting for it to warm up a bit and got the first coat of paint on K-9's room.  He really wanted to paint it red but after I told him no, he picked a sunshine yellow color. 
K's room
I was about 2/3 finished painting when my parents showed up.  They were on their way through town to visit my uncle (Mom's brother) who is hospitalized with cardiac problems.  They got the tour and dropped off a few 'housewarming presents':  paint rollers, a step ladder, a new set of screwdrivers, a tape measure and a few others.  They also brought a dorm sized fridge that they are letting us borrow until we move.  It will be nice to be able to leave some sandwich makings there and not have to pack our lunches everyday.  I've also been cooking dinner out there for the past two nights and have to pack everything with us.
My parents stayed for lunch (they brought their own) and then I got busy really homesteading.
I was busting sod!!!  Just like the pioneers.
Sod cleared off the strawberry bed.
Man, what a chore!!!  Then it had to be dug and planted.  But I got it done.  YEAH!!!!
Newly bedded strawberries, they had already begun to grow in the box!
After dinner, V and J14 went just 2 miles down the road to her violin lesson and the boys and I picked up rocks from the meadow and went for a walk on the property.  So, here is your gratuitous  beautiful sunset landscape:
Boys at the creek, of course... they're boys.
It's been a full day and I'm weary.  Hopefully tomorrow I can get part of the garden tilled but we'll see.  I got my strawberries planted and that was my first priority.  
Now, we just have to think up a name for our soon to be new home.

Monday, April 20, 2009

House- Day 1: not great weather

Well, closing went smoothly and the property is now ours.  YEAH!!! We made the trip to Lowe's but didn't place the big orders yet.  We decided to get a better idea of what we're up against.  I really wanted to get out and get digging but the weather didn't cooperate with me.  It was low 40's with passing squalls of rain and/or sleet.
The view to the North with an approaching storm.
Every time I went outside to see what I could get done it started raining on me.  Luckily, while it rained off and on all day, it never rained so much that it got too wet so hopefully the weather will behave tomorrow and I can get my strawberries planted.
Can this become a strawberry bed????

Can this become a garden?????
Since the weather didn't cooperate with outside work I did get some work done inside.  I vacuumed the kitchen drawers to get out the mouse poop (we set some traps before we left).  We have discovered, much to our dismay, that the mouse problem is probably bigger than we had thought.  It's a good thing that we were planning to essentially gut the basement since we found that mice have been living above the ceiling panels in the basement.  The mud sill is so poorly sealed that the mice have easy access so sealing the house is one of our first priorities.
I did get the boys' bedrooms taped off to paint.  They are the rooms that need the least work so they will become the repository of boxes when we start to move out.  I want to get the mouse problem more under control before we start moving too many belongings.

The previous owners only 'kind of' painted the walls

The windows also need lots of work.

J14 works on demolition.
When the children got off school, we brought them out and started demolition of the basement.  They actually had fun taking off the trim molding.  This was when we discovered how bad the mouse problem is.  I'm hoping (probably vainly) that since there hasn't been anyone there and the food supply has dwindled, that there aren't that many left.  V did find a long dead family in the air intake of the furnace.
We're going to make sure we take down the ceilings when the children aren't there and we plan to wear masks and such when we're working in the really mousey areas.  We set 4 traps when we left, I'll see how many are full in the morning.
Now, it's time for bed,  I've had a full day and tomorrow will be even busier.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Getting ready

Peppers and eggplant
The seedlings are doing well under their lights.  They're getting big.  I'm hoping to be able to rig up some sort of a temporary cold frame out at the new house but we'll see how much time I have for such things.  They may have to live under the lights for a while longer.
In other news,  my brother dropped off some boxes for us this morning:
Yowza!  This is only a portion of what he's got.  They had been planning to move as well, but their deal fell through, so they are letting us use the boxes that they have been collecting.  I've already been collecting boxes and we have a bunch in the garage.  This stack makes the reality even more evident.  We'll probably store at least some of them out at the acreage for when they are ready to move.  
I'm in the middle of laundry and mending.  This afternoon will be the first of probably many trips to home improvement stores in the next few weeks.  We're thinking we want to reframe and put in a new front door.  The only door in the house wider than 32 inches is the walkout in the basement. We need a wider door to get our refrigerator in and I'm not really interested in hauling it up the basement stairs.  The door that is there now is ugly and old and opens the wrong way- that is, the light switch is on the hinge side of the door so when you open it you have to go around the door to turn on the lights.  One more thing to add onto the list...sigh.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Everything is set...

Everything is in place for Monday.  The insurance rider has been faxed to the bank, the gas/electric company has been notified and will change the service on Monday- they are even going to come out Monday afternoon and replace the meter with one that automatically reads remotely.  We have steeled ourselves for the onslaught.  
We have a few things to pick up this weekend in preparation.  We will get a new tie out line for the dog since we will be taking him out with us while we work.  I don't trust him to stay put so we will tie him up but we hope to get a zip line set between the house and the pole building to let him run.  With the house on a state highway I don't want him running amok.
Monday will be the big ordering day.  We will arrange for the well and septic repairs, order attic insulation and my new gas range (the first one) and range hood.  J14 said that it is a sexy range.  I don't know that I would call it sexy but I really like it.
I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed today.  The reality of how much there is to do is setting in.  I've got my to-do list.  I've accomplished almost everything on today's list.  Now, we are going to unwind a bit.  We've got lots of downed limbs that we've been collecting over the winter.  It's still warm (60's) outside so we are going to light a fire in the fire pit outside and relax by the fire.  Tomorrow and Sunday have their lists of things to accomplish.  We'll see if I have time to blog.  We're planning to have the van and car both packed with supplies so all we need to do Monday morning after signing is to come home, change clothes and start to work.  Monday seems so far away- but I know it will come all too quickly.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Walk through

V picked me up from work today and we drove out to the acreage for our final walk through.  The owner was there moving out the last few bits of furniture that they had left.  V helped him move a shelf out of the kitchen.  After he left our realtor just left us there by ourselves with our assurance that we would lock up behind ourselves.  
So we took our time.  We did some of our measurements that we were expecting to do on Monday so we're a little ahead of the game.   We figured out where the new island will be going in the kitchen and discovered that none of the cabinets are standard sized (they were hand built by the original owners).  They're not even standard height, which isn't really a problem except that they had to cut into the countertop when they installed the dishwasher because it is taller than the cabinets.  We were planning to put in a new counter so we may have to play with spacers to raise it over the dishwasher.
I also had a good look at the spot I want to put my garden and the strawberries.  It's going to be lots of work to clear the weeds/grass and dig it up.  Oh well, I knew it wouldn't be easy.  
I did discover that there are hostas and peonies coming up as well as iris.  It's going to be fun trying to identify all the trees and shrubs that are out there.  There is one tree in the corner of the yard that I haven't figured out what it is yet.  It is just starting to bud out.  The bark and some of the old leaves still hanging on look like apple but the trunk is much too shrub like and we found no evidence of apples on the ground underneath.  Of course, it is possible that the deer ate anything that fell.  The deer have definitely made themselves at home there.  It is going to be interesting keeping them out of my plants.  I'm hoping that having people and a large dog living there will dissuade them from being quite so brazen.  The shrubs in front of the house have been nibbled down to stubs.  
It will definitely be an adventure.  I'll try to post lots of pictures as we go along.  I'm forseeing lots of digging and cleaning on Monday.  The mice have definitely been busy when there has been no one there.  The kitchen cabinets and drawers will need significant cleaning.  I noticed that the owners had set a few mousetraps and I have several that I will take with me.  Setting those will be one of the first things we do.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

This makes me smile

I've received an award!!!  Thank you Phelan for the lovely award- I think.  I started laughing when I read it- but I am actually quite honored.

"The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken - excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words. As a recipient of this world-renowned award, you now have the task of passing it on to at least 5 other worthy bloggers. Do not risk the wrath of the zombie chickens by choosing unwisely or not choosing at all..."

Now, I just need to decide upon whom to bestow this honor.  Hmmm.....
Or, perhaps I will risk the wrath of zombie chickens because my poor brain is too tired to choose wisely.  Between house stuff and the 4 hour training session this morning to learn the new computer documentation system at the hospital- my brain is mush- perfect zombie food.
I know too many excellent bloggers out there to narrow it down.  

Monday, April 13, 2009

Independence Days- week 19 and an update

Wow!!! what a whirlwind of a week.  Things today didn't slow down at all, either.  I must say, I'm happy (well, not completely) with how things are going.  I've been quite productive. Oh, and Sharon is contemplating an update of the IDC.  Check it out.    Here goes on the latest IDC update:
1.  Plant something-  Yup, planted peas and potatoes on Wednesday out at Roger's house. My seedlings are happy under the lights and my broccoli seedlings are outside hardening off to prepare for planting soon.
2.  Harvest something- Nope, not yet
3.  Preserve something- No, but did talk to my Mom about pickles on Sunday.  She sent me the recipe she uses for her famous (at least at our house) spicy mixed pickles. I didn't have time on Sunday to check out the reported stash of canning jars but it was cold and a bit rainy and I was having too much fun looking at pictures of penguins.
4. Store something- No,  we're actually trying to work through our stores.
5. Manage reserves- Ate mostly from stores last week again.  Will probably do even more in the next few weeks.  
6.  Cook something new-  No, but I need to look at a few new crock pot recipes.  I'm betting that I'll be using it more in the next few weeks so we can have 'real' meals.
7.  Prep something-  Ok, where to start... We have it almost all arranged.  Our closing on the acreage is set for Monday the 20th at 830 am.  I have already asked for the entire week off work so we can start work.  I have arranged with Roger to borrow his tiller to help me get the garden and strawberry beds ready for planting.  We pick it up this weekend and I can start on Monday after we close (assuming the weather cooperates).
8.  Reduce waste- Not more than the usual.
9. Learn a new skill-  Um. I haven't worked on knitting for a long time.  I have been doing lots of research on kitchen redesign (I picked up a 'green remodeling' book at a book sale last week).
10. Work on community food security-  Um, I don't think so.  We did serve at the Easter Breakfast yesterday and I think the leftovers were going to the homeless shelter.
11.  Regenerate what is lost-  I did talk to my Mom about pickles yesterday.  She sent me her recipe and is willing to 'walk me through' my first batch of pickles this summer.
12.  Behavior change-   Things have been moving here rather quickly.  I do need to call and make appointments for me and the children at the doctor.   I need my annual blood work so she will give me my new prescription for my thyroid meds and I want to make sure the children are all up to date on their Tetanus shots before we start working them on the acreage.

So,  as you noticed, we are closing on the acreage on Monday.  The owners declined to come down any more on the price (especially since we had accepted 'as is').  I'm not entirely happy with the situation but I can't say I'm surprised. I guess that $50,000 was as much as they were willing to cut.  But, in  reality, with everything else we are planning to do, another 5000 isn't that much more.  We will probably end up spending about as much as we would have spent if the house was in good shape so it all works out in the end and we will know that it is done right.  
I'm REALLY excited about this.  Next week will be incredibly busy!  V has planned out the weeks' schedule for repair/rehab work.  I pointed out to him that it doesn't include any of my gardening tasks.  I did spend time yesterday while we were in the car planning out the garden space.  I've got a 30 by 100 foot plot planned out.  I may not take up all that space but I was being generous with the space.  
If anyone is in Eastern Iowa and is up for a challenge- we will welcome any and all help- indoor or out.  We've got probably about a month of work ahead of us before the 'big move'.  We plan to put our current home on the market in early to mid May and hope to move for real Memorial Day weekend.  
J14 is lobbying for a cat.  The boys are excited to each have their own room.  I'm excited about having room for berry bushes and strawberries and being able to walk out of the door and go to the garden without driving 5 miles.
Whew!!! I'm tired just writing all that.  I'll warn you, posts may be sparse in the next few weeks but I'll try to post pictures with regular updates.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

The sugar rush is over

It was a busy day here.  I was up at 5.  The children did their egg hunt around 630, J14 and I were at church to set up for the Easter breakfast by 650 (it's less than a 5 minute drive).  We all ate there and left about 845 to spend the day at my parents farm.  My brother and his wife were also there and we got to see many of the photos from my brother's trip to Antarctica.  The boys ran around outside and hit each other with sticks for a while.  You can see (above) the results of the day's adventures- on the trip home.

I'll do a more detailed post on house events tomorrow along with my usual IDC.  

Friday, April 10, 2009

Good Friday 2009

Not much going on here.  Seedlings are doing well and growing madly under the lights.  Final count-  54 tomatoes (8 varieties), 26 peppers (at least 6 varieties- I have several that are from a pack of 'mixed hot peppers' so who knows!) 5 eggplant and 4 tomatillos.  I have one more space in the flat and I have a few more tomatillo seedlings that I haven't totally given up on so I may plant one more to round it out.  I'm a bit OCD and having an open space bugs me.  
We should hear back no later than tomorrow if the owners will play nice and help with the cost of repairs but even if they don't I don't think that it's enough to stop us from going through with it at this point.
I've got seedlings to plant, more peas to get into the ground, strawberries in my fridge drawer and more fruit on the way.  I need space.  
I had a rough day at work.  It was very busy and I was dealing with people trying to pick up the pieces of their lives that have been a slow motion train wreck.  It was draining.  And it's going to be a long weekend.  Tomorrow morning I need to be at church to help set up for the Easter breakfast.  It is the big fund raiser for the high school youth and since they are planning to go to New Orleans for the national youth gathering this summer, the more money raised, the better.  J14 and I will go early Sunday morning to help cook and serve but we need to leave by at latest 845 since we are going down to my parent's for Easter service and lunch. Another weekend 'lost' when I have so much to do.
But now...It's pumpkin time-  I'm going to become rather vegetal.  The fireworks bandits struck again at 310 this morning so I've been awake since then. I'm planning to get the boys to bed, have a drink and watch some mindless television (actually I will pretend to watch TV and most likely fall asleep on the couch). After all...Tomorrow is another day....

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Planting and a quandry

I finally got into the garden this afternoon!  We went out to Roger's house and planted a 25 foot row of peas and one of All Blue potatoes.  It was so great to get out and work in the dirt again.  J14 helped dig the trench for the potatoes and the boys threw dirt clods at each other.
But now, the problem.  While hoeing the row for the peas I uncovered a nest of baby bunnies- a mere 6 inches from where I wanted to plant my row.  I actually almost hoed them.  The nest was in a bunch of dried grass in a furrow. Thinking that it was just a bunch of dried grass, I was going to work it in. I took the top off and saw fur.  OOPS!  Inside were three tiny baby bunnies. The kids were fascinated.  I didn't let them touch them and we used sticks to reposition the grass back on top of them.  I hate having baby bunnies in my garden since they're going to become big bunnies and eat my peas but I also don't have the heart to just kill them- especially with the kids there.  It could be that since the nest has been disturbed that mama bunny won't come back.   We'll have to see what happens.
In house news- we sent a letter to the owners requesting  financial assistance to fix the septic and bring the well up to code.  For some reason, they want 5 days to make their decision.  That has me worried.  I'm really bad about turning things all around in my mind and ruminating on all the things that could go wrong, wondering why they need that much time, worrying about their motives, all that mental garbage.  As a result, I haven't been sleeping well which makes everything more difficult during the day.  I hope that being out in the garden today will help me sleep better tonight.
We will be spending Easter Sunday with my parents.  We weren't able to go down last weekend for my Mom's birthday so I'll have to take her gift of seedlings down to her.  I also want to check out her reported stash of canning jars that she isn't using any more.

Monday, April 6, 2009

independence Days- week 18

It's that time again.  Mondays and IDC updates seem to come around so quickly.  It's been a busy week here, what with garden preps, house preps and all the usual craziness of my life.
1.  Plant something-  No,  I was planning to plant peas this last weekend but we were predicted to have snow (which mostly missed us- YES!).  I did manage to get all my little seedlings transplanted.  I have the flat that is going to Roger and a few things for my Mom but mostly they're for us.  I have no idea how things will produce at the new place and last year was such a bust in the garden that I've gone overboard.  I've got 54 tomato plants (8 varieties) 20 peppers (7 varieties plus I'll get some Peter peppers from Roger), eggplant and tomatillos.  My broccoli needs to get in the ground soon as well.  I'm hoping to head out to Roger's on Wednesday evening to plant my peas and chard.  My All-Blue potatoes arrived today as well so I'll need to dig a trench for them as well-  Oosh!  It's a good thing I've been doing my back strengthening exercises!
2.  Harvest something- No
3.  Preserve something- No
4.  Store something- hmmm- I don't think so.  I'm trying to not pick up too much extra these days since it will just have to be moved eventually.
5.  Manage reserves- ate almost entirely from stores except for milk, cheese, bread and eggs.
6. Cook something new- no.  But I did try some new things!  Sunday afternoon at the local community Rec Center there was a Slavic Bazaar. I was a bit disappointed that there were no crafts to buy but they did have live music, a display from the Czech Museum in Cedar Rapids and lots of food!- for free!!!  YUM
7.  Prep something-  Um. no- we're back into negotiations with the owners of the property about paying for the repairs to the septic and well ( we found out the well doesn't meet code requirements either) so we'll hear back from them soon.  
8.  Reduce waste- Nothing more than the usual.  
9.  Learn a new skill- have done more research into well and septic system code requirements this week than I would have liked- but it's always good to be knowledgeable in these situations.  I need to figure out what to do with my potatoes now as well.  We've only tried them once before so we'll se how they go.
10. Work on community food security- not much here.  The children were playing around on Free Rice this afternoon  J14 was working on German vocabulary and K-9 was doing multiplication.  It's quite a great deal,  for every question they answer correctly the corporate sponsors donate 10 grains of rice.  They did about 3500 grains of rice today.  I11 said their teacher has had them use it in school as well.  J14 was talking about counting out how much 1000 grains of rice actually was. Maybe a task for a rainy day.
11. Regenerate what is lost- I never seem to know what to do with this one.  I did have a great chat with my Mom on Thursday afternoon while I waited with her for my Dad to get a cardiac MRI.  We'll be going down Sunday morning to spend Easter with them and I hope to check out the stash of canning jars she thinks are in one of the old grain bins.  I also need to make sure she is willing to teach me about pickling this summer.
12.  Behavior change- Oh, the procrastination bug has been biting!  I took me forever to get my student's final evaluation copied and mailed off to his academic supervisor last week and today I managed to put off calling an outpatient to schedule an appointment.  I also need to call my doctor to schedule my annual appointment with her.  I've had my last refill of my thyroid meds and she will want to do lab work before she writes me another year's worth of prescription.

I don't know about this last week.  I feel I spent a lot of time transplanting little plants but let a lot of other things slide.  Of course,  I had several weeks worth of housework and laundry to catch up on so that took much of the weekend.  I am just so anxious to get this house mess sorted out and get on with it I can hardly stand it! I just want to be there and get my hands dirty making it ours.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Oh no!!!  I just got a shipping notice.  My strawberry plants are on the way already.  Ack!  They initially said they wouldn't be shipped until late April.  Now I really hope we can close sooner than the 30th.  I'm guessing I'll be putting them in flats in the backyard and hope for the best until I can actually get them in the ground at the new place.  I just hope they don't freeze on the way.  We're expecting a snowstorm tonight and tomorrow and then lows into the low 20s early next week.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Hooray for Iowa

I try to stay away from voicing political opinions  here but I have to share how proud I am to be an Iowan today.  I know there are many people who won't agree with the decision that was made by the Iowa Supreme Court today but I think it's absolutely great that Iowa has joined the ranks of the few states to legalize same sex marriage.  I have many friends who have been denied the chance to marry the one they love and now they will have the chance if they choose.

Thursday, April 2, 2009


I thought I'd bring you all up to date on the latest news from our house.  I didn't get the rest of my seedlings transplanted- I know, I'm a bad girl.  But V and I spent an hour at Lowe's dreaming over cabinets, drywall, insulation, roof vents and countertops.  All we left with was a single fluorescent bulb (I had one go out and was short a bulb for my grow lights).  V has promised to hang the lights for me tomorrow (since he got his latest manuscript proofread today) so I can finish up tomorrow.  After reading Kris (Quilted Simple's ) comments, maybe I'll transplant out a few more for me and not give so many to Roger.  We'll see.
In house news, V met out at the HOTF with our realtor and the guy from the health department.  The inspector confirmed that the septic tank needed replaced but gave an Ok for the leach field.  That's a big relief since there is an $8000 - $10000 difference between the two.  Our realtor is going to be our advocate with the owners.  But honestly, even if they won't either pay for it or share the cost, $2100 is a drop in the bucket for what we're going to be shelling out on this place.
ChristyACB had asked a few posts back about my nephew's new wife's research.  I'll tell you what I know.  She is a researcher in neuroscience, studying how memory is formed.  She is using bees as a neurochemical model since bees have great memories to find the flowers and hive again.  The University where she works keeps a fair number of hives that they use for research.  She doesn't tend the bees herself but does go visit them regularly and is rather attached to them (hence the honey at the wedding, the little silk bees inserted in the flowers on the wedding cake and the honey cream frosting- YUM!).  This does have some implications for the study of CCD since one theory is that the bees are getting a form of Alzheimer's (whether from illness or chemical exposure is unknown) that makes them lose their memory and can't find their way either to food or back to the hive.  Of course all of that is pure speculation at this point.  But I found it fascinating to talk to her when I had the chance over New Year's (she was a bit busy to talk research last weekend).
I11 had a field trip today to the state capital so he had to be at school at the 'butt-crack of dawn' and was gone all day until about 430 this afternoon.  He has the 6th grade lock in tomorrow night so he will be crabby all weekend.  V is planning the homestead about 10 steps ahead of reality and dreaming of what he will do down the road a few years.  
Me, I just can't wait to get through tomorrow at work so I can sleep in on Saturday.  Ooo, probably all the way until 645!!!  Maybe even 700 if I'm really decadent!!!  I just know I've got  1.5 weeks of laundry to do, cookies to bake for coffee hour at church on Sunday, general cleaning, shopping and meal planning as well as trying to get started on a few more of the home repairs around here that can be done quickly.  The weather isn't forecast to be great so it will most likely be an indoor weekend- again!  sigh!
Oh, in other good news.  We had another meeting with the loan folks at the credit union.  We're done with all our inspections (except for the septic everything went as expected) do once the appraisal is done (it was ordered last week) we only need a 3 day notice to arrange everything for closing.  I REALLY hope we can get this done sooner rather than later.  We are so psyched and ready to plunge ahead and get our hands dirty that we can't stand it.
Peace to all of you, my friends.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I started transplanting my little tomato seedlings this evening.  I couldn't do all of them because with all the craziness going on around here we haven't managed to get the second bank of grow lights up and I only have room for one flat extra under my current lights.   I'm also struggling with how many of each variety to plant out in the garden.  I have shared a garden with Roger for so many years that I'm not sure what we will need for just our family.  This is a canning year though.  Last year with all the rain and flooding I didn't have enough to do any serious canning and we are out of tomatoes!!!  So I need to make sure I plant enough to have PLENTY.  Tonight I transplanted 4 each of Mortgage Lifter, Amana Orange, Amish Paste and Polish Linguisa and two Cherry Roma.  I still have 3 varieties to go and I want a few more of the paste tomatoes as I need to make sauce this summer.  The summer before last I canned 40 quarts of tomato sauce.
I spent a while talking to Roger on the phone.  He is disappointed that we won't be sharing the garden but is excited for us and the new place.  He is OK with me planting my peas and early stuff at his house (although he jokingly told me that I was just going to come pea all over his garden because our septic was bad- HA! HA!).  He had a problem with his lights and a lot of his tomato seedlings died so it's a good thing I planted extras.  I also started the majority of the peppers for both of us so we will share.  He did plant the wonderfully obscene Peter Red peppers which are doing well so I will HAVE to get a few plants and share photos.   My goal for tomorrow is to get my lights hung and more seedlings transplanted.  It's time.